Books and Good Reading
Edward Enfield, one man bicycle equipped British expeditionary force into Greece and father of comedian Harry Enfield - to whom, barring age and balding pate, he has bequeathed a close resemblance - is rather more than he seems.

An oxford University Classics scholar, seasoned TV, newspaper and magazine journalist he can also lay claim to National Service in Germany!  Enough,I suspect to develop anyone's sense of humour.  An intelligent; humourous and enjoyable read, reviewed here by David Smith.

Title: GREECE ON MY WHEELS. Author: Edward Enfield.
Publisher: Summersdale Travel. ISBN  1-84240-280-9 (Paperback). Published 2003.  Price: 7.99 GB Pounds.                                     
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Edward Enfield is the father of the comedian Harry Enfield. He has been a presenter on the BBC Watchdog programme and writes a regular column in the "Oldie" magazine. His love for Greece and all things Greek dates from his childhood. In his forward Harry describes the book well. He writes: This book has a beautiful pace. It is the pace of a bicycle powered by an elderly man with a bicycle-powered elderly mind".

Edward Enfield writes in an amusing and self-deprecating style that is part of the charm of the book. He clearly loves the English language and produces many vivid thumbnail sketches of both people and places. The book is an anecdotal account of three journeys he made by bicycle round the Peloponnese, Epirus and Acarnania. As one reads it one feels that one is travelling with him and sharing his adventures. The journeys were inspired by the early travels of Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli and Edward Lear, for whom the author has a great affection. At times he quotes from their accounts comparing their experiences to his own.

In his travels Edward Enfield avoids, so far as is possible, the "tourist Greece" which it is clear he does not find attractive. Referring to the obligatory tourist sites he gives this wise advice. "When travelling in Greece, stay at the place you want to see. This makes it possible for you either to get up early and be there before the tourist buses arrive, or to go in the evening when they have gone".

In place of the rather bland or over-hyped descriptions often found in travel books are acutely observed and amusingly, but never patronisingly, described encounters with local people and fellow travellers. Harry Enfield has the happy knack of being able to describe an event or scene amusing detail.

You will meet the Greek shepherd who seems to command his flock like a military platoon; an American quantity surveyor; the Australian lady, Suzanna who runs the Phelops Hotel; Pate or Payt – the Australian cyclist who like to ride in the hate; and many others.

His description of the King Otto Hotel in Nauplion is typical of his ability to conjure up both the appearance and the atmosphere of a place:

   In Nauplion I made for the King Otto Hotel. I do not say that everyone
   should stay there, because if you have to have a private bathroom you
   had better not as you will not get one. Otherwise you should. It is a
   handsome old house in the middle of things, and as you go through the 
  front door you see a fine spiral staircase winding up to the first floor. 
  All the
rooms have ceilings about fifteen feet high, and it is extremely
  clean and always seems to have been freshly painted. In the right weather
  you should have breakfast in the garden, where they give you Madeira cake.

 The King Otto has more style than any hotel I know, and in common with all
  Greek hotels, has no fear of fire but thinks something terrible may happen
  to you in the bathroom………… Greek hotels equip the bathroom with mysterious
  strings which I have often pulled  in the hope that they might make the light
  come on or the water get hot, and then realised I have sounded the alarm. 
  Nothing ever happens, though, so it doesn’t matter. I think these alarms must
  be required as a matter of law but are never attended to, as a matter  of

There is a very timely description of Olympia and some interesting comments, written in 1873 by J.P. Mahaffy, an Irish classical scholar. He had a rather low opinion of the sportsmanship of the athletes taking part in the original games!

The book has three useful and amusing appendices. The first is a passage concerning Greek sailors in a storm from 'Eothen' by A.W. Kinglake 1854.  Not very flattering!

The second also, from Eothen, recounts ‘A Conversation through a Dragoman’ between a British traveller and a Pasha. Amusing and reminiscent of "Yes Minister".

The third concerns Byron and Mesolongi.

There is finally a useful bibliography with entries equally divided between the 19th and 20th centuries.

It was a joy to read this book and I would thoroughly recommend it to any who loves Greece, or to anyone who is contemplating visiting for the first time.

David Smith.